Is Carmelo Anthony an Elite Level Player?Carmelo Anthony's act of shoot first and don't answer questions later has worn thin with Denver Coach George Karl, Nuggets fans and the media--not that what the media thinks of Anthony should be his top priority but it is also is not a great sign of leadership when he is "ducking out the side door at practice while Iverson is stuck with the media nags," as the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla wrote in a scathing indictment of Anthony's deficiencies. Karl's biggest concern about Anthony is his overall maturity level: "I've told Melo in the last two weeks, 'I don't think you're listening. I don't think you're listening as well as you need to listen.' For me, the next step is to change the democracy back to a dictatorship." What exactly does that mean? Karl spelled it out point blank when he was asked if he would bench the NBA's leading scorer: "I think that's the next move." Karl dug up an interesting statistical nugget (no pun intended) to support his contention that Anthony is focusing too much on scoring: Anthony had more points/rebounds double-doubles in one year at Syracuse than he has had in nearly four NBA seasons.
Some observers tried to sell the public a bill of good about Anthony, starting last summer during the FIBA World Championship. Supposedly Anthony had turned things around and was now worthy of being included in the same category as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. I watched Team USA's games and was much less impressed than others seemed to be with Anthony's play. Anthony was later honored as the 2006 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year--but, as I noted during the summer after Anthony was selected to the All-World Championship Team, he offset the fact that he was Team USA's leading scorer with his poor defense. After Greece defeated Team USA, one commentator went so far as to write, "The one player who I found myself most often rewinding and saying 'what the hell was he doing?' was Carmelo Anthony. Most of the time he was away from the play and managed to simultaneously not guard his man and not help either. I have not watched the other games this closely, but after watching this game I would have a very hard time making a case for Anthony being our MVP."
I did the Denver Nuggets preview for Lindy's Pro Basketball 2006-07 and clearly stated that Anthony's name should not be mentioned in the same breath with the game's top players: "Carmelo Anthony's third season was his best one yet, but the time when he was compared to fellow '03 draftees LeBron James and Dwyane Wade seems like a distant memory now. Anthony improved his questionable shot selection and lackadaisical defense, but still needs more work in both areas. He does have a propensity for hitting game-winning shots but has yet to show the ability to dominate an entire game or a playoff series like James and Wade can. The difference is that those guys can affect a game in multiple ways, while Anthony's impact is felt almost exclusively in the scoring column. He is a subpar rebounder for his size and the position he plays, nor does he get a lot of assists, steals or blocks."
The sad part is that Anthony clearly has a lot of talent and at some level he knows how to play the game the right way; after all, he led Syracuse to a national championship as a freshman. Somehow, Anthony's game has regressed in the NBA even as his scoring average has soared. Karl is equally frustrated and hopeful, saying in one breath, "And, right now, what you're saying is basically, 'When is Melo going to get it?' Is it going to be next month?' As a coach, there's no one more frustrated, there's no one more angry than me, because I feel the pain" and then noting, "I think what you're baffled by is you see a guy who could be a top-five player in basketball." The question is whether Anthony is willing to adjust his attitude in order to reach his full potential as a player. On Tuesday night Anthony had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 106-91 win over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Those are the kind of all-around numbers that Karl would like to see. Was that just a one time deal against a sub-.500 team or has Anthony taken his coach's words to heart?
posted by David Friedman @ 11:58 PM